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Executive Secretary of the Society of Friends
(the Quaker Church) for Europe and the Middle East,

Hans Weening Discusses Dutch Drugs Policy. 
"We Are Concerned About the Kids."

(Transcript from video interview, December 1993.)

The pilgrims sailed to North America from this little town in Holland, Leiden, where I located the Secretary of one of our most influential early religions, the Quakers.

I interviewed Hans Weening about Quaker philosophy and Dutch drug policy. 

Weening : If you talk about drugs policy, or even the policy toward drinking and smoking ; if you have, call it "liberal" views about that, it doesn't necessarily mean you advocate the use of it !

Quite on the contrary ! If you are concerned, genuinely concerned about the issue, I think, you should do something about the problem, and try to help solve it. That's where our concern really comes from.

Concern for drug abuse leads to a very positive, constructive, social action ; not towards repression.

Because I think repression of the problem often times comes from disconcern. They are not concerned at all about the people involved.

That's what Quakers really try to stress. If you really want to solve the problem, we should inform our people what are the risks. Give them very very clear information. I think our children of 14 should know what marijuana is, what the effects of it are. They should know what cocaine is, or LSD, or the other things on the market, and which they are confronted with at their schools, or anywhere else. They should know what it's all about.

So, to tell it, you need clear information. But providing information doesn't mean that we advocate it ! On the contrary, we are concerned about it. I think that's something Americans should regard much more ; that, to solve the problem, you need to do an awful lot of work. And you're only willing to do that work if you're really concerned.

And I think that may the the hypocrisy coming from everybody criticizing the Dutch Drugs policy. That it's too liberal, and I don't know what they're saying...

But here in Holland we try to act from concern, rather than repressing it.  

Many people know that the Quakers have a tradition of temperance (total abstinence). And many Quakers have had a policy, not so much from the beginning, but especially in the 19th century, and early 20th century, many Quakers became non-alcoholic, teetotalers, advocating a policy of complete non-use of alcohol and drugs in general.

And still there is a very large majority, I think the majority of Quakers would not use any drugs or alcohol, or even meat ! Many, not perhaps the majority, but a large minority of Quakers are vegetarian !

So we have a tradition among Quakers that can be seen as "the temperance movement".

Interviewer : Or is this just a tradition of "good health" ?

Weening : Yes, good health. And they have some quite religious, or spiritual arguments.

One of them is that if you use alcohol, or any other drug, your mind is affected ! You can't think clearly, and so you aren't ready to do whatever is necessary, if people call on you, or if God calls on you. You don't have to be drunk necessarily. Even if you have just drunk only one beer, some Quakers would say you're not 100% ready to act, so don't use it. One should always be ready to act if people, or God, calls on you.

That's one argument which is used. And indeed, I think, "good health" is another argument against drug use.

I mean, seeing the body as "the temple where God lives", (among other things maybe) but seeing the body as a God-given present, maybe ? Do we have the right to damage it ?

Interviewer : Even if we are not damaging other people, do we have the right to damage our own "God given" body ?

Weening : Exactly. I think every Quaker would call upon other friends, other people, to respect the body, and the mind. Which means be very careful about the use of these things.

There have been different times in the Quaker meetings, especially in the 19th century, when there was more or less a concensus, and a rigid agreement, among friends, that "Quakers should NOT use these things". (prohibition)

But in general, especially in the last 100 years, the Quakers have a more-or-less tradition, that Quakers should be very, very, moderate ; temper your use, be very careful.

But there are Quakers, especially in Central America, (I've been there, and I've met people there), who have demanded of new members to sort of pledge that they will never use drugs, or alcohol, or smoke, or even dance, because all these are regarded as belonging to the reign of the "devil". (smiles)

So among Quakers, there is this concern that people, and friends in particular, should not be getting involved with "these things".

Interviewer : If a Quaker were to have a drug problem, how would "the Church" deal with that ?

Weening : I think "the Church" as such, or even "the society of friends" as such, would not deal with it in a way in which there would be repercussions for the member, or that such a person would be disowned, or whatever.

The other thing, what's the problem ? If a child, a Quaker, would, under the age of 12 or 16, smoke marijuana, would it be a problem ? Would it be regarded as a problem ?

Not necessarily. I mean, "Drugs" is such a general term. In Holland we tend to distinquish between "hard" and "soft" drugs quite clearly.

I'm not talking about "hard drugs" here. As soon as someone is involved in "hard drugs" here, everybody would agree that there is a problem.

And it should be solved. And there should be... health care !

But for soft drugs like marijuana, it would be regarded equally like smoking tobacco, or drinking alcohol.

Interviewer : Why is that ? Why are "soft drugs", marijuana and hashish, treated differently than hard drugs ?

Weening : Because, in Europe and Holland, 20 years ago, the British Quakers published already, "We should not regard marijuana as being addictive, certainly not more than tobacco."

Interviewer : So it's really just a rational conclusion that people have come to about this, that marijuana is something not to get exited about ?

Weening : Some of our people are exited about it ! When we have youth gatherings, quite a few parents are concerned that their children attending these gatherings will meet others that drink, or smoke, or even... or even, smoke marijuana.  

The point with Quakers is that they don't have a (rigid) creed. It's not that someone, or a body, or a gathering says, "This is what Quakers should believe."

We don't have a real written creed which you have to sign if you become a member.

Interviewer : More like a concensus ?

Weening : Yes, more like a concensus, but there is disagreement, and great variety among Quakers, and among groups of Quakers.

Some people say if you have two Quakers, you have an argument ! Not so much for the sake of arguing, but because Quakers are stimulated, and they stimulate each other to make up their own minds.

And they have a wonderful saying, "What canst thou say ?" (in perfect old English.)

That's what matters. It's not even what the bible says. It's not even what God says. It's not what Clinton says, or what the Pope says.

What can you say ? Have you reached a conclusion ?

If not, I would almost say, "Shut up. Make up your mind. Don't listen to, don't imitate others. Don't follow others because of their authority. No, you have to make up your own mind. And then you can make a decision for yourself, and take a stand.

That's our political philosophy.  

The overall drug education demanded of the times, is not contained in this interview, and the divergence to "hard drug" issues and solutions was removed since I wished it to primarily be about soft-drugs, not hard drugs or a multitude of much more extreme issues.